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All Posts in Category: Common Pet Dangers

Xylitol: Not So Sweet for Pets

Xylitol, an increasingly ubiquitous sugar substitute, is found in sugarless gum (e.g., Orbit, Trident, Dentyne), sugarless candy, a granulated form for baking, and even in toothpaste. Xylitol has antibacterial properties in the mouth, thereby reducing bacterial load and periodontal disease. Preliminary studies have shown that xylitol may have other far-reaching benefits to humans as well, such as reducing osteoporosis, helping with endometriosis and fibroids, and helping to prevent ear and throat infections.

In dogs, the effects of xylitol are very different. A dog’s pancreas will recognize xylitol as sugar, causing the pancreas to secrete insulin, which in turn causes a profound drop in blood sugar — a dangerous condition that can eventually turn deadly. And it only takes a small amount of xylitol to cause clinical signs — for a 20-pound dog, ingesting just two pieces of gum containing xylitol can be toxic.

Initial clinical signs of xylitol toxicity are related to low blood sugar: lethargy, weakness, disorientation and collapse. Clinical signs of liver failure usually occur 12-24 hours after xylitol ingestion and can include diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, uncontrolled bleeding and death.

So what should you do if you suspect your dog has ingested xylitol? Although there is no specific antidote to xylitol, seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian will likely induce vomiting and place your dog on IV fluids to increase its blood sugar. Blood work will also likely be performed to monitor liver enzymes, blood sugar and blood clotting times. The best chance for your dog’s survival after ingesting xylitol is to begin supportive care as quickly as possible. So if you suspect xylitol toxicity, don’t hestitate! Get your dog to your veterinarian or emergency animal hospital as quickly as possible.

As a side note, it remains unknown whether xylitol is toxic to cats. There have been some anecdotal reports of xylitol toxicity in ferrets, however.

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Sock Snacks Can Be Dangerous for Your Dog!

They say things come in threes, and for me lately it’s been dogs who eat socks. In one month, I have had three such cases. While it might seem rather harmless for a dog to eat a sock, it can actually cause serious problems if the sock passes from the stomach into the small intestines. One of my patients came into the clinic in shock from vomiting. He was in terrible shape when he arrived, so we gave him shock doses of fluids and took a radiograph, which showed that he had an obstruction in his small intestines. We prepped for surgery, and as we were moving him in, he postured for a bowel movement and pooped a sock out! We were all so happy, but imagine how happy the owner was to get the phone call that we did not have to go into surgery!

My second case was not so lucky and had to have a red knee-high sock surgically removed — but he recovered well.

The third case was a bit more of a mystery. An owner came in with a pup who was, apparently, a chronic sock eater. The owner had seen the dog run down the stairs with something in its mouth, and then the dog rapidly swallowed whatever the object was. Since the dog had a history with snacking on socks, thankfully the owner reacted quickly and brought him into the clinic. The dog was stable and acting fine, but to find out what he’d ingested, we decided to give him an injection to make him throw up — and up came a blue sock!

We would come to learn that all three of these dogs had actually eaten socks on prior occasions, but had been lucky enough to throw them up without treatment. So dogs can be repeat offenders when it comes to sock snacking. The moral of the story is: Don’t leave socks lying around where your dog can get to them. Something as simple as a wayward sock can actually get your pup into a dangerous situation. But if you do suspect that your dog has eaten a sock, be sure to get them to the veterinary hospital as quickly as possible.

Dr. Elvira Hoskins

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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The Dangers of Summertime Heat Stroke in Dogs

As the heat and humidity of the summer months are approaching quickly here in Central Virginia, pet owners should be aware of the dangers of heat stroke, one of the more common summer pet emergencies in dogs. Heat stroke is a situation in which a pet’s body temperature has risen way above normal and needs immediate veterinary attention. Unfortunately, our domestic pets don’t sweat the way we do to dissipate excess heat, so they aren’t as efficient at cooling their bodies as we are — and heat stroke can result. The condition can become fatal rapidly if left untreated, but is easily preventable with some common-sense measures.

Most dogs love to go for rides in the car. While this is fine in cooler months, the most common cause of heat stroke for dogs is being left in cars during the summertime. Even with the windows cracked or partially down, a car parked in the sun can get up to 140° within minutes — so leaving your pup in the car for even a quick errand is very risky and and can potentially have tragic consequences. Pets riding in the bed of a truck can also develop heat stroke.

Heat stroke can also result from overexertion, and when dogs are confined to concrete runs or chained up without shade or water. Dogs should never be left outdoors without access to shade. And even if a water bowl is left out for them, the bowl can easily be overturned — leaving the dog without water for the rest of the day. Also, plan to make trips to the dog park or exercise with your dog in the morning or evening, rather than during the heat of the day.

Heat stroke is more common in dogs that have a decreased ability to cool themselves. Since a dog’s primary method of cooling itself is panting, overweight dogs; geriatric dogs; dogs with short faces (e.g., Old English bulldogs and pugs); and dogs that have compromised airways or medical conditions like heart disease, laryngeal paralysis or seizure disorders are also at increased risk of developing heat stroke. So it’s very important to keep these dogs in a cool environment.

What are the signs of heat stroke?
Heavy, excessive panting is the first sign, followed by salivation and listlessness. Other signs include vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors. And in severe cases, dogs may collapse, lose consciousness, experience seizures or die. The sequence of events can be very rapid, and death can occur within 24 hours, so pets displaying these signs need to be brought in to a veterinary hospital immediately.

What should you do if you suspect heat stroke in your dog?
Call a veterinarian right away, begin cooling your pet, and get them to a veterinary hospital immediately. Before leaving for the hospital, spray your dog down with cool water and place a fan in front of them. You can also place damp cloths on their stomachs or paws. You may also offer them cool water to drink, but some pets will not be able to drink appropriately and may breathe in some of the water. Do not place them in ice or an ice bath, as cooling them too quickly can result in a dangerous condition. Another important thing you can do as an owner is to keep your pet calm — the more stressed he/she gets, the higher his/her temperature may get.

What will happen at the veterinary hospital?
Once the patient is admitted, your dog may need to be cooled and given intravenous fluid therapy and other medications. They will likely need to be hospitalized for several days, as many serious conditions can develop from heat stroke, including bloody diarrhea; heart, liver, kidney and neurologic abnormalities; and bleeding disorders. The most critical time period is the first 24-48 hours after incident. Although pets may still be sick and require treatment after this time period, most that live through this first initial phase will survive.

So this summer, have fun with your pets! But be safe, make sure they have plenty of cool water to drink and plenty of shade and rest, and do not leave them in your car unattended. If you notice any signs of heat stroke in your pet, call your veterinarian or veterinary hospital ASAP!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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Spring Toxins: Cats and Lilies, Dogs and Chocolate

With spring upon us and Easter just behind us, two very common pet toxicities are out in many households: lilies, the number-one cat toxicity, and chocolate, the number-one dog toxicity.

Lily Toxicity in Cats
Lilies can be extremely toxic to cats. The leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, but the stems and flowers are also toxic. Ingestion of even a small amount of the plant can cause severe signs of poisoning. Initially, the cat may vomit, lose its appetite, and or become lethargic or depressed. Without proper veterinary care, these signs will continue to worsen, and the cat will develop kidney failure usually within 36-48 hours. Signs of kidney failure include drinking and urinating more frequently, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Many cats will not survive once they get to this stage, so acting quickly to get them treatment is crucial.

Toxicity and kidney failure have been caused by the following lilies:

• Easter Lily Lilium Longiflorum
• Tiger Lily Lilium Tigrinum
• Rubrum Lily Lilium Speciosum
• Japanese Show Lily Lilium Lancifolium
• Day Lily Hemerocallis Species

Precautions cat owners can take include:

• #1: Do not allow your cat to have access to lilies.

• #2: Should your cat ingest lilies, seek veterinary care immediately. The best results for decontamination are if emergency treatment occurs within 6-8 hours of ingestion. The likely course of action might include inducing vomiting in your cat and administering IV fluids to flush the kidneys.

Chocolate Toxicity
While chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats, most of our chocolate toxicity patients are dogs. Darker and unsweetened chocolate contains more of the toxin theobromide. Toxic doses for a 50-lb. dog would be approximately 48 oz. of milk chocolate, 16 oz. of semisweet chocolate, or 5 oz. of baker’s chocolate (these are approximate doses only — all dogs react differently to chocolate).

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity usually occur within 1-4 hours after ingestion and include: vomiting; diarrhea; hyperactivity; muscle tremors; elevated heart rate; seizures; and, in severe cases, coma and death. Although there is no antidote to chocolate, the prognosis for survival is usually good with aggressive supportive care initiated within 8 hours of ingestion. Decontamination might include inducing vomiting in your dog/cat, giving your pet activated charcoal to absorb what is left in the GI tract, and IV fluids. So be sure to hide your chocolate from your pets and seek veterinary care as soon as possible should your animal get into your Easter stash.

Happy Spring!!!

© 2010 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

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